A tale of cats and dogs

Tabby cat

In life, there are dog people and cat people. Some people like both, but usually, it’s one or the other. I always thought I’d be a dog lover for life. Turns out I was wrong.

I’ve always been a dog person. And for the first twenty-five years of my life they were always around. Loyal, affectionate, a bit smelly – but lovable, oh so lovable.

I always kept away from cats. Didn’t have one, didn’t want one. The claws, the fickleness, the jumping on everything – I just didn’t get it. Let’s just say we didn’t speak the same language.

I also thought I’d have dogs when I grew up. Well, I’m a grown-up now – with a husband, two kids and a mortgage – and guess what? It turns out it’s not as simple as that.

Dogs are a big lifestyle choice.

Deciding to get a dog is like deciding to have another baby. They need a lot of care, attention and walking – they also create a lot of upheaval. Chewing, little accidents, stealing, yapping. Mostly it’s happy chaos – of the amusing, character-building kind – but it’s still chaos. I already have two young boys who reduce my house to rubble daily. I felt like I had enough amusing spontaneity in my life already.

So, we didn’t get a dog. We got close a few times, but we always got cold feet. But you know what? Having no pets isn’t much fun.

Tabby cat

Last summer, I decided to try something different.

I decided to be a cat person. It all started when my husband (who has previous with cats) suggested we think about adopting one.

There seemed no harm in going along to meet some cats. We met two tabby sisters through the Cats Protection League. They appeared to like me and the children. I stroked their silky fur and they seemed to enjoy it. I felt a connection. They needed a home and we had one to offer. It felt right.

I was wary at first and a bit clueless. In a way that made it easier. I started again with no expectations. Cats are totally different to dogs, I had to forget everything I’d known about having a pet.

Tabby cat

So, what’s converted me?

They’re low key. If dogs are an annoying younger sibling following you around slavishly, then cats are the cool older kid you want to impress.

I’m not saying that owning a cat isn’t a commitment. It is. It’s just an awful lot easier. No one is expecting you to train them beyond the basics of cat flaps and litter trays. And no one’s really judging you either. Owning a dog is very public, and if your dog is anti-social you can feel like a social pariah. No one expects you to stand in the pouring rain at cat training classes.  The lack of expectations makes the whole feel less stressful, and more relaxed and pleasurable.

The trade-off is that you get a different kind of affection.

Dogs always know when you need love and affection, they’re very intuitive. Things are very different with cats. It’s not that they aren’t affectionate. What’s different is that it’s on their terms.

Some people say that a cat makes a home. They’re right. Part of their appeal lies not the physical affection, but the fact that they are always there in their own way. When they hear my key in the door, they come and say hello. They get stroked then they wander off (unless it’s tea time, in which case there’s a bit of polite mewing).

They are creatures of habit and I find enormous comfort in this. They’re nice, undemanding routines – cuddles, food and a bit of playing. It’s the opposite of the wearisome routines of owning a dog.

Tabby cat

But aren’t cats a bit boring and humourless?

I used to think so. But the truth is very different. Cats are every bit as amusing as dogs. The difference is that they amuse me in a gentle way, whereas dogs often just made me lose my temper.

I find their minor irritations quite amusing and charming. They get in the way when I take a photo or make a cake. But somehow, it’s sweet and endearing. They’re interested in what I’m doing and I like that. It’s the closest I get to the intuitive relationship I’ve shared with dogs.

Because their affection isn’t free-flowing, it can leave me feeling a little needy. But I think I prefer this to the slavish devotion of dogs, which can be overwhelming at times. Dogs are the needy ones, which can feel suffocating at times.

We have a very different relationship. I wouldn’t go so far as saying they own me, but it’s certainly very different. We’re on an equal footing. And you know what? It feels great.

Is there anything I don’t like?

I fully admit that I’m not a fan of rodents being brought into my house (dead or alive). But compared with the things my dogs used to do (fox poo, anyone?) these feel like things I can put up with.

Tabby cat

So, am I truly a cat person now?

I don’t own any cat tea towels yet, but I’m a convert.

Being a cat person isn’t quite like being a dog person. You don’t really own a cat. It’s more a way of life. I’ve picked up on their take-it-or-leave it attitude and I like it.

I get it now.

 

The Eames plastic chair: exploring a design classic with Lionshome

Eames chairs by Vitra

Image source: https://www.vitra.com/

The Eames plastic chair is a design classic. It’s been in production since 1950 and looks just as fresh and exciting now as it did back then. 

According to its designer, Charles Eames: “Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose”.

He certainly achieved that with his classic plastic chair, which effortlessly combines practicality and style. The plastic seat is designed to mould itself to your shape, yet the elegant little legs keep it looking light and graceful.

Image source: https://www.vitra.com/

In recent years I’ve fallen in love with the mid-century look. It still feels fresh and exciting, yet it’s simple enough to sit well alongside designs from other periods. In my house I combine an original Ercol sideboard and a mid-century inspired sofa with bits of simple furniture from the nineteenth century and even IKEA. It’s a mix that works.

But I’m yet to own an Eames plastic chair. 

Like all design classics, the Eames chair, has inspired lots of imitations. Imitation is the best form of flattery – especially if it means that those of us with smaller budgets also get to enjoy a little bit of design history in our homes.

Where do you start to find one? With so many Eames-inspired plastic chairs out there it’s hard to know where to start looking. Which is where a site like Lionshome is incredibly helpful. Type ‘Eames chair’ into their search and they’ll instantly curate a collection for you to choose from. So much easier than trawling though lots of magazines and web searches.

When I typed in Eames plastic chairs, the first thing I found were the real things. The original design by Charles Eames, manufactured by Vitra, who’ve been making them since the fifties. They’re still being made to the same design. It’s been tweaked a little – the original fibre-glass reinforced polyester resin has been replaced with modern polypropylene – but it’s still essentially the same.

It can be yours, admittedly for quite a hefty price tag of between £300-400. For one chair.

Luckily, there are a lot of Eames-inspired alternatives out there for less than £100. The Lionshome site gathers them together so you can choose between the classic original and the cheaper versions, like this one (£57.50):

Eames-inspired chair

Or you could try one with metal legs (£57.50):

Eames inspired chair

Do you love Eames-inspired chairs? Would you choose the original (and probably best) or something more affordable?

This post was written in collaboration with Lionshome Home and Living. All words and ideas are my own. 

 

Decorating your home for Easter

Easter styling for your home

Easter is such a lovely time of year. I’m hopping with excitement like a little bunny.

Whatever your beliefs, we can all join in the celebration of new beginnings. Fill your house with the sights and scents of spring – anything from some flowering bulbs, or a pretty egg-tree. Then gather some friends and family and share delicious food and a bit of light-hearted fun. No one is ever too old to enjoy an egg hunt, are they?

Here are three easy ways to decorate your home this Easter

Bulbs in jar

Buy some potted bulbs. Take them out of their pots, divide and carefully wash the long roots to remove all the soil. This is great activity for little hands, who’ll find the long roots really fascinating.

bulb roots

Place in a jam jar or a vase with a little water. Don’t submerge the bulb, you just need a little bit of water for the roots. The bulbs have everything they need inside them and will continue to flower!

Easter styling for your home

Pretty posies in unusual pots

Make your spring flowers really shine by arranging them in interesting old china – like a pretty teacup or an old mug. An easy trick to achieve a really pretty, balanced arrangement is to create a grid with tape. I used washi tape as it’s more gentle on old china.

Easter styling for your home

It makes it much easier to create an even display that won’t fall over!

Easter styling for your home

An Egg tree

It’s an Easter classic that everyone should have a go at. Gather some twigs, ideally with green shoots or blossom on them. Casually arrange in a pot or vase and hang little decorations on the ‘branches’. Pussy willow also works brilliantly. Mine usually look a bit lopsided, but it wouldn’t be the same without one!

Easter styling for your home

Easter styling for your home

What are your favourite ways to decorate your home at Easter? I’d love to hear them in the comments! 

Keeping your little cubs occupied over the holidays – with BEAR Alphabites

Easter holidays with BEAR

The school holidays…do you love them or loathe them?

For me the holidays are all about finding balance. It can be a bit intense – laughter one minute and tears the next (and that’s just me!). I like to say yes to things as much as I can, but I also want to encourage the boys to amuse themselves.

The great thing about Easter is the longer days and warmer weather. It’s the first holiday of the year where spending time outdoors doesn’t feel like a punishment. The lovely people at BEAR read our minds and sent us a wonderful package of goodies encouraging us to get outdoors and embrace our inner bear, including their brand new Alphabites packaging, which brings bear to life on the box!!

Easter holidays with BEAR

Here’s my simple formula for entertaining your little cubs over the holidays! 

Start the day well

I’m trying to get out of bed at my normal time, while they get a bit of a lie-in. This gives me a little  bit of time to drink a cup of tea in peace before the madness begins. Once they’re up we always start the day with a decent breakfast. Alphabites from BEAR are a great favourite. They taste great, but crucially aren’t filled with rubbish – just five whole grains and a sprinkling of natural coconut blossom nectar. BEAR Alphabites have been recognised by industry leading charity Action on Sugar as a leading example in the kid’s cereal category of how brands can help to reduce sugar intake – which is great news to me!

Alphabites by BEAR

Exercise for the body and mind

Take your small people out for a big part of each day and you’ll all feel happier and healthier. Even if it’s only in the garden. One of our favourite things is to pack up a rucksack with a notebook and pencils and go out nature spotting. It moves their little legs and keeps the cogs turning in their brains. Go somewhere out of town, or just wander round your local park. The change of the seasons means they’ll be plenty to spot whether it’s birds, blossoms or just an interesting stick. Write about what you see and draw some pictures while you’re out.

Holiday fun with BEAR

Freedom

Don’t go too mad with the planning. Remember to always allow your children the freedom to do what they want (within reason!). Children have to endure the regimented routines of school from a very early age and the holiday is their time to relax and be free. Sometimes even the best laid plans are worth ditching in favour of dressing like a bear or having a rainbow painted on your face.

Giving your children freedom also means allowing them to be bored. Don’t be afraid to embrace it. Sometimes the best childhood games are born from having the time and freedom to be bored. Hold your nerve and let them whinge for a bit. You never know when inspiration will strike!

Rainbow face paint

Have a few activities up your sleeve for a rainy afternoon

You don’t have to be a crafting superstar everyday, but it’s worth having a few easy things in reserve.. My hope is that this will buy me some time later in the day to get something done on my own (or feel less guilty when they watch an hour of telly).

Our favourite craft of the moment is painting terracotta plant pots with acrylic paint. It’s easy and not too messy.

Painting plant pots

That’s my simple formula. The next two weeks will be a mix of giggles, tears, tantrums and chocolate eggs. But that’s ok. The most important rule of parenting is not to be too hard on yourself! 

A big thank you to BEAR for sending us the most awesome box of goodies for the Easter holidays! They have lots of great ideas for outdoor activities on their site. 

This is a sponsored post, however all ideas and photographs are my own. 

#OnePerfectThing in March

Marmalade jar

Perfection often feels out of reach. But however imperfect you’re finding life, you can make an effort to find #OnePerfectThing. Something which makes you pause, smile and feel thankful.

#OnePerfectThing is a community I started on Instagram last May. That’s almost a year ago. I started it as a little project to remind myself to feel happy every day. Now there are over two thousand little moments of perfection in our gallery! Every month it continues to delight and surprise me – especially as we all seem to be so like-minded.

March has been a wonderful month. As we move into spring I feel like my happiness dial gets turned up a little more everyday. Your photos were so colourful – from sunshine yellows to purples and pinks. The dull days of winter already seem long ago.

Here are my March favourites:

#OnePerfectThing in March

Top row, left to right: @miss_dig_for_victory / @whenlovelookslikelaughter / @thetwinklesmama

Middle row, left to right: @darwinboerne / @mimmironning / @genuineplacebo84

Bottom row, left to right: @georgia_coote / @meyouandmagoo / @caro_urbanvegpatch

Thanks to everyone for joining in during March!

 

 

The pink pleated skirt of dreams

Pink pleated skirt

A pink pleated skirt is the fashion equivalent of a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis.

I bought this jersey skirt in Primark. It also comes in grey and bottle green – my usual colours of choice. But my inner butterfly made me reach for soft dusky pink instead. For £6 it was worth a little punt out of my comfort zone.

And guess what? It’s now my favourite thing. It’s happy-making. When paired with my favourite greys and dark blues, it’s the perfect way to kick off the warmer weather. It’s also surprisingly informal. Pink skirts are definitely not just for weddings!

Pink Pleated skirt

T shirt, £8.99, New Look /  Skirt, £6, Primark (in store only) / Shoes, White Stuff (similar available here)

I also love this version from George – especially when dressed down with this t shirt (which I’m about to order right now).

Will you be trying a pink pleated skirt? They’re the perfect transitional piece. Wear with tights now and sandals later! 

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10 reasons why you should visit Ely market

Ely Market

Ely is an unassuming place. It doesn’t shout about itself. But it should. The city has a right to be proud of its amazing markets and we want more of you to come and experience them. 

The market has been around for the last 800 years. But just lately something has changed. A quiet revolution is taking place. It’s not just a nice place to come and potter around. It’s becoming a real destination – the foodie capital of the Fens.

The weekly Saturday craft and food market is the jewel in the crown. It’s packed with delicious food, interesting crafts and vintage collectables. On the 2nd and 4th of every month its ranks are also swelled by the farmers’ market.

Here are ten reasons you should visit Ely’s Saturday market.

Prosecco at Hum-Closen on Ely market

 Cheese and wine

Susannah of Hum-Closen is a newcomer to the market, but she’s already causing a stir with her beautiful collection of cheese and wine. Try a glorious bit of Roquefort or the perfect Comte – washed down with a glass of bone-dry, cloudy Prosecco. Or, if English cheese is more your thing, visit the Lincolnshire Poacher Stall. Get everything you need for a perfect cheeseboard.

Hum-Closen on Ely Market

The best dumplings in Ely (and possibly the world?)

 The I Am Dumpling stall is street food at its very best. While your dumplings steam listen as Andrew sets the world to rights. After working in Asia for 30 years he really knows his stuff. For just £3 you’ll get a plate of delicious meat or vegetarian dumplings. The sweet, sticky buns are also gorgeous!

Dumplings at Ely Market

Authentic Mexican food

The Al Chile van is a little bit of Mexico, plonked down in the middle of Ely. Forget what you think you know about Mexican food. This is fresh, healthy and light. Try a proper Mexican pulled pork Taco, or an authentic burrito. The perfect place to eat as a family.

Mexican food at Ely market

Vegan Alley

Ely’s famers’ market has a strong vegan presence – so much so that it’s now affectionately referred to as Vegan Alley. Audrey’s Cakes are delicious, as are Lizzi’s ‘eggless’ scotch eggs. On the Luxury Vegan Samosa Company stall, Sudesh creates the most wonderful samosas – freshly cooked while you watch. They are genuinely the nicest samosas I’ve ever eaten.

Samosas on Ely market

The Cakes

You can’t leave the market without trying one. One highlight is newcomer George’s Bakery – a young baker makes a delicious selection of cakes and quiches. The Dessert Man also offers a rather special millionaire’s shortbread and enough varieties of cheesecake to, well, start a market stall. Audrey’s cakes get another mention here – you’d never realise they were vegan!

Audrey's cakes on Ely market

Gin

The Ely Gin Company started life five years ago on Ely market. They still have a stall every Saturday, but have also expanded into a shop nearby. They specialise in fruit gins – everything from the traditional sloe to black cherry. Their latest gin is marmalade flavour. Obviously, I had to try some and can report that it’s very nice indeed. They also sell some of the most interesting tonic I’ve ever seen! Visit their stall on the market for generous samples.

Tonic water at the Ely Gin Company

Fresh local produce and new discoveries

The Farmers’ market is full of local, seasonal produce. From quality meat, bread and fish to early pink rhubarb. There’s also always something new to try. On my last visit, I tried Kombucha for the first time. Never heard of it? Well, it’s fermented green tea. Esther brews Cha Kombucha from her home in Cambridge. Try a sample – it’ll definitely kick-start a few conversations.

Cha Kombucha on Ely Market

Jams and Chutneys

Traditional market fair, but yet again, Ely offers a fresh approach. Amanda at the Cambridge Preserves Kitchen has the most delicious stall of jams and chutney. My favourite was the pear and lavender jam, which would be stunning in a Victoria sandwich. A few steps away, Madame Sunshine is ready with a smile and her fiery sauces.

Cambridge Preserves Kitchen

The Deli which is still part of the market

The Lemon Tree Deli and Cafe on the marketplace gets a special mention here. Debbie and her husband have recently made the move from market stall to permanent shop. They sell beautiful local cheese and do a lovely cheese scone.

Debbie, owner of the Lemon Tree Deli in Ely

The best flat white in Ely

The Silveroak Coffee stall serves the best coffee in Ely. It’s a bit of a well-kept secret. Relax at one of their tables and watch the market bustle around you. Bruce sources the finest beans and roasts them just outside Ely. Their flat whites are my weekly treat and worth waiting for.

Silveroak Coffee on Ely market

If you can tear yourself away from the gorgeous good, there’s also a brilliant selection of stalls selling vintage collectables, second-hand books and crafts. The best thing? The stall holders love to haggle and it’s worth a trip to discover some great finds. You can also pick up a bunch of beautiful and well-priced flowers while you’re at it!

Flowers on Ely Market

Ely markets take place on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. The best way to travel to Ely is by train. The market is just a 15-minute walk from the railway station. More information on the markets can be found here. 

Why not come and join us on Sunday 30th April and Monday 1st May for the Ely Vegan & Vintage Fair?

A big thank you to Ely Markets for inviting me on a tour of the market! It was fun being a tourist in my own city.  

Life lately: California dreaming and a bit of escapism

California dreaming sweatshirt

It’s not quite California, but the weather has been pretty nice here lately. And everything feels so much happier when the sun shines, doesn’t it? Life has been busy: work, school, decorating… It’s been really important to find little pockets of escapism.

This sweatshirt provides one of those little moments. I don’t usually wear slogan tops, but I couldn’t resist buying this one. It’s the perfect school-run, work-from-home kind of garment – happy and fun but cosy. So cosy. Perfect for sunny days and not so sunny days. You can find it in Primark now for £5.

Pink tulips

Last week I indulged in a little more escapism at a beauty event at John Lewis in Cambridge. The beauty hall has recently been refurbished and it’s very glossy and sparkly. I have to admit that I don’t always feel entirely comfortable in a beauty hall. I don’t wear a huge amount of make-up, and I always feel like a rabbit in the headlights when surrounded by hundreds of different kinds of lipsticks and foundations.

But lately, I’ve discovered a new-found interest in make-up – or mainly the ability to look more pulled-together and fresh-faced. A better version of myself. So anyway, after a week of decorating, I couldn’t resist the thought of an evening discovering new things with a glass of fizz in hand.

John Lewis Cambridge Beauty hall

I made some new discoveries at the Laura Mercier counter. It wasn’t as flashy and glossy as the new Charlotte Tilbury or Mac departments, but it was a little more in my comfort zone. The girls on the counter were so lovely and helped me choose a new mascara and lipstick. It takes a lot for me to part with my cash at a make-up counter (several glasses of fizz definitely helped), but I’m delighted to report that I’m really loving my new purchases. The lipstick is especially good – light, sheer and flattering. Perfect for those of us who will always be too much of a wallflower for bright reds. I really like it and it makes me feel happy when I wear it and a little bit more grown-up.

Laura Mercier lipstick

After all those glasses of fizz I was in need of a little perking up. So it was a very happy post day when I received a package of new teas from Teapigs.

Teapigs feel-good teas

They’re feel-good teas – made with really interesting ingredients like beetroot, dandelion and lavender. My favourite is Clean n Green – which is a combination of green tea, lemongrass, ginger, coconut and dandelion leaves. This genuinely is the nicest tea I’ve tried in a long time. It’s sweet and delicate, with not a hint of unpleasant ‘greenness’ about it. I’ve been drinking cup after cup and my husband has even been stealing it too.

Teapigs clean n green tea

So, a new sweater, a lipstick and some super tea are giving me just the kind of escapism I need right now. What’s making you happy this week?

Teapigs kindly sent me these teas to try, but all thoughts and photos are my own 

 

Five quick spring cleaning jobs to boost your happiness

Are you the kind of person who enjoys spring cleaning their house from top to bottom? I’m not. But a tidy house does make me happy. Rather than spend hours and hours cleaning I like to break things down into manageable little jobs. Things that take minimal time and effort, but reward me with maximum happiness. 

Here are 5 quick and easy spring cleaning jobs to try this week! 

Spring cleaning

Sort out your clothes, one drawer at time

Wrenching open a crammed clothes drawer first thing in the morning is such a negative start to the day. By the time one season ends my chest of drawers is bursting at the seams. It’s full of new clothes, old clothes and random things that small people have poked in.  Take one drawer, empty it out on your bed and be brutal. Get rid of anything you haven’t worn in six months. I take out my favourite winter things and store them in plastic boxes under my bed. Fold everything up neatly, put in a lavender sachet and start afresh. Why not start with your knicker drawer? Mine’s a shocker. For maximum happiness, do this is small doses – try one drawer a week.

Go through your make up and cosmetics

Get rid of all the old, dried up things. And the things that never suited you anyway. Reduce your collection to a few key pieces you actually like. Time is so tight each morning, don’t lose valuable time having to rummage through everything to find what you’re looking for. Give the things you know you’ll never use to someone who will – it’ll make them happier too!

Spring cleaning

Have a mug cull 

How many of us have more mugs than we could ever possibly use? I’ve definitely been guilty of this. Teetering piles of mugs balanced in each other – the ones at the back of cupboard never even seeing the light of day. I’m a firm believer that we should use the nice cups every day. Get rid of all those horrible mugs you tolerate and slim down your collection. You probably only need a dozen at most. Imagine how much better you’ll feel when you stumble downstairs in the morning and choose a mug for your morning drink. Tidy cupboard, tidy mind? It’s worth a try.

Spring clean your mugs

Vacuum your sofa

Take off all the cushions and face up to all the crumbs and junk that’s fallen down the back of the sofa. Vacuum it all out (if you have a hand-held vacuum, this is super easy). Then do some major cushion plumping. Not the half-hearted daily plumbing, put some real welly into it. I did this last week and I can’t believe how squished down our sofa had been. It’s now looks about twice as big! It also feels better and smells fresher.

Clean your front door

We walk through our front door day in, day out. It’s easy to stop noticing it. But you’ll be amazed by how filthy it can get. I try to give my front door a quick wash every few months. It makes an amazing difference, really quickly. Sometimes you don’t realise how dingy and depressing something looks until it’s actually clean. It takes five minutes and will put a little spring in your step. If you’ve got an extra few minutes, put a planter of spring flowers out there too.

What are your favourite quick and easy spring cleaning tips? I’d love to share some more with you soon! 

Home Etc

Home Notes for March

Tea and cake

Can you believe we’re half way through March? Neither can I. We’re officially in springtime now and the days are getting longer, lighter and warmer. I’ve got lots going on in my home this month. Not much of it is very photogenic, but it’s all very exciting! 

Project hallway is well under way. The decorator is here right now painting the hall and landing a light blue-grey. You may remember that our hall is dark and narrow. The old paint was a very dingy cream – far too yellow for such a gloomy space. I can’t wait to share the finished results with you.

I’m particularly excited about hanging the pictures back up. We’ve had the same boring arrangement ever since we’ve moved in, and I’m looking forward to shaking things up with lots of colour. I want people to immediately see our family’s personality as soon as they come in the front door. I’ll be rearranging pictures from elsewhere in the house and framing some new things.

One new purchase is this lovely little print by Jeff Josephine. I love the pop of yellow, which will go so well with the new paint.

Jeff Josephine print

I’ve also invested in these amazing bits of wrapping paper from Willow and Stone. They’re poster size and they’re going to look great in big frames.

Cavallini wrapping paper

I’m also on the hunt for a good mirror. I’m quite tempted to create a Trompe L’oiel effect with a window-frame style mirror like this one by OKA. What do you think?

And while we’re on the subject of windows, has anyone else noticed how filthy theirs are? Those lighter, brighter days are making me realise just how dirty everything is. Cleaning the front windows is on my list of things to do this week. I’m not much good at doing all my spring cleaning in one go. I’ll do things pretty slowly, and might get it done by Christmas (if I’m lucky!). It’s the thought that counts, right?

Tulips

And finally, my favourite flowers this month are tulips. They’re such a fun flower and are pretty affordable at the moment. They may not last for as long as other flowers but they evolve in a really interesting way – from prim little buds to big blowsy, droopy blooms. They even manage to look pretty good  when most of the petals have fallen over the table.

What’s happening in your house this month? Are you bust spring cleaning, or decorating?

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Home Etc